Being able to understand changing trends relating to university applications and acceptances - and the implications they have on current and future student demand - is of vital importance for players working within the purpose-built student accommodation sector.

So reports from UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, that a record-breaking 39.5% of all 18 year olds in England applied to go to university this year, up from 38.1% last year, will be welcomed.

Any notable uptick in student numbers has the potential to have a knock-on impact on demand for bed spaces, as well as reinforcing the already favourable demographic arguments for investment into a sector which is already undersupplied from an accommodation perspective, with 2.9 students for every university or private sector-owned bed.

In total, the number of young people from the UK applying increased 1% to 275,520 compared with the same point in 2018, UCAS said. This is despite an ongoing demographic trend which means fewer people turned 18 this year.

Our own forecasts suggest that growth in student numbers will be maintained over the longer-term – something we’ve looked at in more detail here - with full-time undergraduate numbers expected to increase 15% between now and 2030. This would represent an increase of 220,000 students.

Records were also broken by international applicants, with an 8% increase in the number of non-EU students applying to study in the UK to 81,350 students. The volume of EU applicants, meanwhile, rose 1% to 50,650, UCAS said.

China was the stand-out performer, with applicant numbers up 30% to 19,760. There are now more applicants from China than from Northern Ireland (18,520).

Matthew Bowen, Head of Student Property Research at Knight Frank, said: “The global appetite for investment in UK student property has never been higher and will be further bolstered by this year’s application numbers.

“As the size of the 18 year old cohort in the UK begins to increase from 2021 onwards this will provide a further boost to demand for purpose-built student accommodation which will increase in line with a healthy pipeline of new stock. This uptick in delivery will play a significant role in helping to ease the pressure on existing non purpose-built student accommodation.”

If you would like more detail on specific markets, or to find out if we can be of any other assistance contact Matt Bowen or Neil Armstrong.